Sailing: This is crazy. I'm scared. How do we get out of this?

Nearly two weeks into the leg – some 3,000 miles of the wildest ocean conditions imaginable and here we are with five boats within 10 miles or so of each other. We spent the afternoon with three of them in sight.

Nearly two weeks into the leg – some 3,000 miles of the wildest ocean conditions imaginable and here we are with five boats within 10 miles or so of each other. We spent the afternoon with three of them in sight.

We have had our fair share of dramas – a broken wheel, a broken pole end, a full on reverse in huge seas and 30 knots of wind to remove a forest of sea weed off the keel, a wild uncontrolled gybe in the pitch black. I guess the others must have had similar experiences that will keep them in bar talk until the next race – and yet here we are still side by side.

I write this some 800 miles off the Australian coast – we are sailing along in what seem for a change to be almost pleasant conditions. We have made our way out of the worst of the Southern Ocean and the water temperature has soared from 3C to a truly tropical 11. The boys look tired but happy that the weather has improved enough to get into a regular routine and the boat is beginning to dry out.

My memory must be short. It is no more than 10 months since I was down here last, but only now do I remember thinking: "That is definitely the last time I go down there." I guess it's the good bits that linger – the fantastic surfing conditions that go on for days, the huge sense of achievement you get. The terror, freezing cold and total wetness eventually get forgotten.

Anyone who races boats like ours in the Southern Ocean and says they have not been scared is either mad or stupid. I don't mind admitting that in the last 10 days or so I have been terrified on a number if occasions.

Here is just one instance. It is the middle of the night, I am in the navigation station looking at the chart when suddenly the boat rolls violently the wrong way, there's an almighty crash and we are pinned on our side. Once I get my orientation back I fight my way on deck.

It's completely black – a kind of blackness you can't experience any where else – the sails are flapping wildly in a gale and the boat is completely on its side. "This is crazy", I think, "I'm definitely scared now – how the hell are we going to get out of this?"

Head count – five voices tell me every one is still on deck and seemingly in one bit. Nightmare number one is averted – so is nightmare number two, amazingly the mast is still in the boat. Not for long though unless we get the wild beast of a spinnaker down. The noise of the flapping sails is so loud I can't hear a word from anyone. But we all know what to do – get the spinnaker down before it pulls the mast down or destroys itself.

Everyone gets stuck in – the off watch are up now having been rudely awoken by being turned upside down. They know the seriousness of the situation so very little is said.

Disaster recovery mode takes over. In 25 minutes the boat is back on its feet and on course. Another hour of exhausting, freezing work tidying up and putting other down-wind sails up and we are back up to full speed.

Everyone is wet through and tired out, the watch system has been totally messed up – the knock-on effect will deprive all of much-needed sleep for a day or so to come.

Despite this the thing on everyone's mind is, "how much have we lost on the leaders?" My mental arithmetic tells me about 20 miles plus – a huge knock-back but there you go – just another pleasurable Southern Ocean experience.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea